MERCER – The Mercer Counrty commissioners are expected to adopt a 2023 budget Dec. 8 that holds the line on property taxes for the 10th consecutive year but draws millions out of its savings.
“By using the reserve instead of raising taxes, we are returning that amount to the taxpayers who provided it,” Fiscal Administrator John F. Logan said.
The county’s tax rate is 23.65 mills, which means the owner of a property with an assessed value of $20,000 would have a county tax bill of $473. Mercer County property assessments are based on property values established in the early 1970s.
One mill equals $1 for every $1,000 of assessed property value.
With total expenditures projected to be $89,227,035 in 2023, the county shows a revenue shortfall of $4.8 million.
To balance the budget, authorities will draw out of the reserve fund, which is at $12 million. Officials will also be developing an improved cash-management process to replace some bank deposits with short-term investments. The interest earned will help pay for cost increases.
Logan, who retires at the end of this year, said the 2023 budget posed challenges.
Pay and benefit costs to the county will rise $1.3 million for 2023.
“We have raised our pay rates, particularly at the entry-level to help attract new employees and to maintain our valued workforce with competitive compensation,” Logan said. “Paying for quality people to do quality work is worthwhile, but it must be managed financially.”
Commissioners raised pay rates, particularly at the entry-level, to help attract new employees and to retain its valued workforce with competitive rates.
Logan said that the county has also managed millions in special grants, issued bonds, and worked to deal with rising costs over the past two years.
During 2022, commissioners refinanced bonds to obtain a fixed interest cost for 30 years to replace aging bridges. As a result, five projects will be completed by the end of the year, and 25 more bridges will be repaired.
Commissioners also repealed the per capita tax in 2021.
In addition to their regular duties, county employees manage major federal and state grant programs, three of which will continue in 2023. Those included $6 million in Cares Act grants to businesses, schools, and non-profits, $1 million in COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program grants to help hospitality businesses to survive COVID-19, $7 million in Emergency Rental Assistance Program round one grants to pay for residents’ rent and utilities, and $500,000 from American Rescue Plan Act funds to improve and sanitize the air within the courthouse.
Logan said tax collection and fees for services continue at a stable level.
“Conservative spending by our elected officials and department heads, coupled with strong purchasing procedures, has minimized the effect of non-payroll cost increases,” Logan said.
Logan also said that he expects to finish 2022 on budget, with the general fund reporting a deficit of about $130,000. As planned during last year’s budgeting, the county will use about $2.9 million of its reserve funds.
Logan said the proposed 2023 budget, possibly with modifications developed through continuing work in coming weeks, is expected to be adopted at the Dec. 8 commissioners meeting.
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